It seems like decades ago that huge family and neighborhood gatherings with lots of kids running playing around was the norm in the world, but we know better now. Thanks to the royal virus that you have already heard too much of, social distancing has become the new normal, sending once-active families into a lockdown that is so much less fun than playing with friends and extended family members. It’s sad, but it’s necessary for our health — but unfortunately, not all kiddos understand that.
Having fun while quarantined has been a challenge for everyone, but for the 40%+ of US parents with kids under the age of 18, it’s especially tough. It’s essential for young children to be socialized with other kids their own age, taking part in activities that will help them learn and grow. If you’ve got an army of tiny humans begging you for socially distant activities, it can seem like an endless task to keep them entertained. Fear not, though. We’ve got a slew of fun things for them to do while social distancing, and sourdough bread and Netflix documentaries are not even included here.
Allow Video Game Time, But Be Picky
Most kids love to play video games. It’s been a blessing and a curse since the days of NES and the Duck Hunt/Super Mario Bros game combo. While two-player games have always been fun, video games today are different and more interactive today. You can play with your friends from across the reach of game servers, allowing your little ones to have some socialization while quarantined.
A problem with video games is that they can be too much fun, however, and before you know it, six hours have passed. Be picky about which games you let your kids spend their brain power on. While war games like Call of Duty, Titanfall, and Battlefield offer a story and a history lesson, they are also incredibly violent with strongly adult themes and language. You know your kids better than anyone else, so it’s on you to decide what they can and cannot handle — but in the meantime, consider other games for them to fall into.
Open-world simulation games have been a staple in the gaming world since Maxis released SimCity in 1989, but today, these games are more inclusive than ever. Kid-friendly simulation games like Animal Crossing and Minecraft have seen a surge in popularity all over the world, and for good reason: The more you play, the more active the worlds become. Best of all, these games can be educational and creative. You can build everything from toothpick-legged shacks to sprawling castles, and kids have fun using their imaginations while spending time with friends.
Older kiddos and teens might like The Sims franchise. These are available on Xbox and Playstation, but the OG Sims games are on the PC. The Sims lets you custom design your own family, build them a home, furnish it however you want, and simply live day-to-day life. You can get a job or be a bum who doesn’t pay the bills. You can decide to travel to space or prank your neighbors by putting dye in their shower. It’s insanely addicting with a huge following and community, letting those creative minds come up with whatever their imaginations can fathom.
Arts and crafts are fun for anybody, even those people who claim not to have a creative bone in their body. There’s something about a mass of craft supplies that starts the brain ticking and gets the juices flowing. Let your kids spend their days at their very own creation station, loaded with a variety of bits and pieces to happily pass the time. Our favorite ideas include:
- Beading, faux jewels, and anything sparkly. Little girls especially can have fun making fashion jewelry, hair accessories, and gifts for their friends and family. What’s sweeter than a pair of lopsided earrings given to you by a proud little one? Remember to exercise caution: Kiddos aged four and younger should not be playing with anything that presents a choking hazard.
- Paper crafting. This doesn’t have to be anything specific, but a variety of colored craft paper, markers and crayons, glue, and glitter can make magic happen. It’s incredible to see what kids can come up with when they have nothing but creativity on their side. Remember that a mess is just a mess and can be cleaned up. Moments like these are fantastic and fun memories for everyone involved. Encourage them to make whatever their sweet hearts desire so that you have something new to hang on the refrigerator.
- Painting, and we don’t only mean birdhouses and pretty pictures. Get your kiddos working their gross motor skills by letting them help with some of the bigger creative jobs around the house: Allow them to paint a mural on the fence, or to color Rover’s Amish dog house with a fresh new color. Painting is awesome for development in so many ways, letting kids focus on large and small details while creating a work of art.
You might have already tried some of these, but hopefully these ideas have stimulated new ones for you. Think outside the craft box and think of fun and interesting ways to get their little minds working creatively. Kids have endless imaginations. It’s easier to entertain them than you might have thought at first.
Go Play Outside
Extracurricular activities might be shut down in most schools right now, but that doesn’t mean that you need to stay inside all the time. In areas with bad weather, this can be hard during the winter months — but not impossible. Being stuck inside all the time is not fun for anybody, and fresh air is good for the mind, body, and soul. Get the little ones bundled up and toss them outside for some safe outdoor fun.
Riding bikes is a pastime that most kids love, plus it’s a way to expel energy while socially distancing. Kids riding bikes can stay a safe distance apart, but can also socialize and have fun playing with their peers at the same time. Think of ways to mix it up than just riding up and down the street. Have races or competitions, have a bike decorating contest, etc. There are so many ways to mix up the regular, and kids are even better at thinking of fun new ideas.
If you have the time, space, and resources, consider having the little ones build a fort outside. This is a fantastic way for kids to get the pink in their cheeks by gathering supplies, then using their brains to figure out how to get it standing and sturdy. A combination of engineering and creativity goes into this activity, and your kids can play with it and add onto it for as long as it’s standing.
Nature walks and scavenger hunts are also fantastic for kids of all ages. You can do these in the safety of your own home, or you can hike to a local trail or state park to partake. (Remember to look at specifications regarding opening and closing times at your parks, or whether or not they’re open at all. It varies county by county, so it’s worth looking into.) You can find awesome scavenger hunt bingo cards or printables online for free, and you can even customize your own. If it’s especially rainy or snowy outside, an indoor scavenger hunt works as well.
Check the Greenness of Your Thumbs
Typically, gardening is not something that starts until the springtime, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare in the meantime. Starting a garden is fun and rewarding, and it’s a good teachable moment for kids and adults alike. You don’t even need a hefty space in the yard to partake. A porch or window garden is just as exciting as a plot of land.
Wood pallets are the quintessential crafting material for anyone, but budding (hehe, no pun intended) gardeners can find all kinds of uses for them. You can use pallets as planters, garden borders, and even as potting stations if you know how to disassemble them and follow plans. Best of all, they are usually free or cheap if you know where to look. Check local buy-sell-trade websites like Craigslist or community Facebook groups, or you might even consider asking local shops if they have any pallets they are wanting to get rid of. It’s worth asking, and the worst that they can say is no.
Tree care might not be the first association that comes to your mind when you hear the word “gardening,” but wintertime is actually the best time to do so. With the branches completely naked, what better time to do some tree pruning? Show your kids how to properly trim branches, as well as what to look for in terms of rot or internal damage. It’s a skill that they won’t realize is highly valuable until it’s time for them to maintain their own yard in the future.
Finally, if nothing else, ask your kids to sketch out their dream garden. Even if your landscape is covered in snow and you can do nothing real outside, having your kids show you what their idea of a garden is can be eye-opening. Remember that all kids are magical, and their plans and ideas are oftentimes off-the-wall and not at all what you’d consider. Even if you can’t have rainbow roses and Darth Vader as your personal gardening assistant, you can at least get some fun input from your kids regarding what your garden should look like.
In the dead of winter, a pool party is probably the last thing you’re thinking of. Besides, what pool opening is available in public right now, anyway? However, if you’re one of those lucky individuals, an indoor pool is not out of the realm of possibility. This can mean spending the thousands of dollars to have a pool dug, poured, filled, and maintained — but think more simplistically. Your kids are little, right? Do you really need a huge, expensive, built-in pool? Nah, we didn’t think so either.
Consider a cheaper alternative that is ultimately more fun and personal: A small indoor kiddie pool. Will it be wet and messy? Absolutely! That’s the fun of the whole thing. An indoor pool party is zany and different, and it’s a small thing that will no doubt get the kids ridiculously excited. Rearrange furniture and lay down some sheets or blankets to catch the bulk of the mess, or, if you have a screened-in porch with a heater, this could be the best possible location. Swimming is normally saved for the summertime, but being able to “swim” and splash from the comfort of your own home in the middle of winter couldn’t be more fun.
If you’re not fully ready to commit to a room inside of your house being the scene of a pool party, then a bathtub “pool” party can be just as fun and less messy. Grab their swimsuits and give them pool toys to play with, and your kids can have just as much fun splashing around the bathtub! It’s your choice if you want to add bubbles but come on. What’s a bath without bubbles? This is an easy way to get their energy levels down, make memories, and have fun all at the same time.
Look,we get it: It’s a hard task to keep your sanity while social distancing, especially if you’re the parent of young kids. While there is plenty to do indoors, it’s a matter of flexing your creative muscles to keep kids engaged. Sometimes all you need to do is take a regular activity and put a spin on it to get your kids excited. While it’s not always easy to prevent the dreaded words “I’m bored!!”, it is certainly not impossible. Finding offbeat ways to keep your kids having fun during quarantine while maintaining their social distance.